What would life be like without Twitter? Would we be more productive? Would Charlie Sheen cease to exist? No matter what the answer is, we can all probably agree that the world wouldn't be the same without one of our favorite social networks.
The Atlantic recently shared an infographic created by marketing firm HubSpot which provides a few examples of just what might be different if Twitter didn't exist. The image is goofy and full of silliness, but it does leave us a bit contemplative.
Twitter somehow provides us with a sense of power on some days — the comforting idea that our 140 character blurbs can make a difference if shouted into the right corners of the ether.
A great example of this phenomena can be found in a piece written by my co-worker Winda Benedetti a few days ago. It was entitled "When your friend is missing, all you can do is tweet" and it focused on how Benedetti was coping with the disappearance of her friend and fellow journalist Dorothy Parvaz.
In the piece Benedetti explains that she sent out a cry for help — a plea to anyone who might listen and be willing to help spread the word about Parvaz's disappearance — into the Twitterverse:
The response to that tweet was almost instantaneous ... and overwhelming — wonderfully, surprisingly overwhelming. People — all kinds of people, some I knew, many many I didn't — heard my request and carried it forth farther than I ever could have.
They retweeted and retweeted and retweeted all day long. These people, these wonderful people! Some tweeted because they knew Dorothy. So very many tweeted simply because they heard a cry for help and decided to answer. As a tech reporter, I have long known that this is the wonderful power of social media ... but today I know and understand this power like never before.
Benedetti's tweet and the many which followed it are now part of a rather significant movement to free Parvaz — who it turns out is being held captive by the Syrian government. That makes my head spin — that a little message can have such power.
So forget the fact that Charlie Sheen would probably fade into obscurity far more quickly if Twitter didn't exist. Forget that we'd waste far less time if it weren't for the social network. Forget that there would be far fewer public relations incidents if 140-character messages weren't the norm.
Focus on the important things: Without Twitter, we'd take a little bit longer to launch social movements. Of course we'd still be able to start campaigns, spread news, or shout out of help — but we'd be doing it without the benefit of Twitter's ability to turn anything viral in less time than it takes you to type "RT please!"
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- When your friend is missing, all you can do is tweet